Natasha and Richard team up to tell us an epic Bertie story that takes us all the way across Russia to Mongolia on the trans-Siberian train. Like the journey itself, this is a lovely long story, so find time sit back and listen to it… perhaps on a train journey!
The story features one of the most beautiful Easter eggs ever made.
The Tsar of Russia gave Bertie’s great, great uncle Prince Rudolf a Faberge Egg, one Easter over 100 years ago. The egg was lost in the Russian Revolution. Bertie travels to Siberia to recover it. On the way he meets a mysterious Mongolian princess, called Toragana.
Lake Baikal from the window of the train can be seen in the video.
Story by Bertie.
Read by Natasha and Richard. Duration 42 minutes.
Proofread by Claire Deakin & Jana Elizabeth.
Did you scoff any scrummy Easter eggs this year? I bet you did. Well this story is about a very special egg, but it isn’t one that you can eat.
Richard, can you describe it for us?
Yes, certainly. This precious egg is made out of blue enamel and gold, and it is studded with diamonds. It stands on four legs, and has wavy patterns all around it. A sort of crown sits on top of it, but not a normal crown, because it’s in the form of a skateboard. If you know anything about exclusive and expensive eggs, you will realise that I’m talking about a Fabergé egg, made by the French jeweller of that name. Over 100 years ago, the Tsar of Russia gave it as a very special Easter present to Bertie’s great, great uncle, Prince Rudolf, the inventor of the skateboard.
A sad story came down through Prince Bertie’s family that Prince Rudolf lost this fabulous egg after he left it under his seat at the theatre. When the wicked queen heard the family legend, she muttered to herself: “Well now we know why Bertie’s such a nincompoop. It runs in the family.”
History tells us that in the year 1917, the Russian royal family suddenly became quite unpopular, and those who could, left the country in rather a rush. Prince Rudolf took a train along the trans-Siberian railway and escaped into China. From there he made his way to the south of France where he lived out his days in a palace. Like Bertie, he loved telling stories, and he wrote down the tale of his escape from Russia in a diary. For many years, this diary lay in a box in an attic, until one day Bertie’s aunt sent it to him along with a key on a gold chain. For a whole week, Bertie took Prince Rudolf’s story around with him, reading it at every spare moment, even when he was walking down the corridors of the palace. That was how he bumped, quite literally, into the wicked queen.
“Why do you waste your time with stupid stories?” hissed the queen. “Why don’t you join the real world and do something useful like make some money?”
“I’m enriching my mind,” replied Bertie. “And this book has a wealth of information in it, including the secret of what Prince Rudolf really did with his Fabergé egg. I now know where he hid it, which is something you don’t know, so there.”
“I’ll believe that when you show it to me,” retorted the queen.
“Well I shall find it,” said Bertie. “You wait and see.”
So now you know all about Bertie’s great great uncle Rudolf and his very special Fabergé egg. Sit back and listen to the story of Bertie in Siberia.
In the month of May, a grey taxi dropped Bertie off at Yaroslavsky station in Moscow. Prince Rudolf had departed from that same station when he had escaped from the Revolution. His diary described how crowds of refugees were camping on the concourse, all hoping to get a place on a train. They made the station their home, and some even kept chickens with them, and made camp fires on the platform.
Rudolf was one of the lucky ones. He managed to hop onto a luggage wagon just as a train was moving off.
When Bertie arrived at the station, quite a few down-and-outs were still living on the concourse, and plenty of people; Russian, Mongolian, and Chinese, sat on piles of luggage looking like they had been there a long time. Loud Russian pop music blared out of speakers. There was a lively trade in CDs, dubious meat pies, and various drinks. It was more like a bazaar than a station.
He went into the grand vaulted ticket office and joined one of the snaking queues. After quite a wait he spoke to a ticket seller through a little window. “Nyet, nyet,” she said, which is Russian for “no, no.” Bertie walked into the main part of the station feeling rather low. He wondered if he should try and hop onto a moving train like Prince Rudolf had done, but he thought that sounded a little dangerous. As he was gazing up at the neon timetable, all written in Russian letters, a lady with gold teeth tried to sell him a bunch of roses.
“I want a ticket, not flowers,” said Bertie to the lady who could not understand a word he was saying. Then he had an idea. “Actually, I’ll take three bunches, a red one, a white one, and a yellow one,” and he handed her some Russian money, roubles, in return for the bouquet. Now Bertie queued up again for a ticket, and this time, when he reached the ticket window, he pushed the bunch of roses through the little window. As he had hoped, the ticket-selling lady was enchanted enough by the gallant gesture to suddenly discover that there was indeed one last place left on the train, a berth in first class.
All the other passengers seemed to have so much more luggage than Bertie. Some were passing suitcases through the windows. He was glad that he had a first class ticket, or else he might end up sleeping on a pile of luggage. He boarded the train, and found his compartment down the corridor, number 16. He slid open the door and saw a little room about the size of an airing cupboard. There were two beds on either side of a narrow table. On one of the beds sat a young woman with long silky black hair and Eastern features. She was wearing a black silk shirt with a gold pattern embroidered on it, and she was passing the time by painting her nails blood red.
“Oh, er, sorry, I must have the wrong compartment…” But after checking his tickets he realised that this was the right compartment after all, and although it was First Class, it was rather small, and had to be shared with another passenger.
“I wonder what the third class is like?” thought Bertie. Then he remembered Uncle Rudolf in the luggage wagon. As for his travelling companion, he could have ended up with a much, much worse one.
Bertie stored his rucksack under the bed, sat down, and introduced himself:
“Hello, I’m Prince Bertie.” Then, looking at the exotic raven-haired person opposite, he blushed and added hastily: “I’m engaged to the lovely Princess Beatrice, but unfortunately she wasn’t able to come with me on this trip.”
The young woman lifted up her long eyelashes and replied: “And my name is Toragana, Princess Toragana, and when I arrive back at my home in Mongolia, I will soon be married.”
“I’m afraid I didn’t know Mongolia had a royal family,” admitted Bertie.
“I’m a direct descendant of Genghis Khan,” replied the princess. “You’ve heard of him I suppose?”
“Ah yes, I’ve heard of him alright, he conquered half the world.”
“Precisely,” said Toragana. “And I know all about you. There are pictures of your lovely girlfriend in this week’s Tallyho Magazine.” And she showed Bertie a glossy photo-feature about Beatrice opening a sanctuary for lost donkeys.
“That’s so like Beatrice, always doing something kind,” said Bertie. Toragana looked somewhat puzzled at the picture of the princess hand-feeding a beetroot to the donkey.
Half an hour later, the train heaved and jolted, and they moved at a snail’s pace out of the station. The trans-Siberian journey had begun. There was only another 8 days and 6000 miles to go before the train would reach Beijing.
There were few luxuries on board. The purser brought around little glasses of tea, and if you wanted, you could fetch hot water from the Russian kettle, called the samovar, at the end of the corridor. Toragana ate pot noodles and salami, which she shared with Bertie. In return, he gave her some of his special peach-scented chocolate. They caught sight of the white walls of Danilov Monastery, and from then on watched millions of silver birch trees roll past their window at 40 miles per hour.
About once a day they would cross a great bridge spanning a wide river, and that usually meant that they were not far from a town. It was always a great relief to stop at the station for half an hour or so, to stretch their legs on the platform, and to buy cabbage pies or hard boiled eggs from the traders at the station. Bertie learned to love a refreshing Russian drink called Kvass. Most of the other passengers preferred to wash down their food with vodka.
There was plenty of time for Bertie and Toragana to tell each other stories about their lives and their fiancé’s, and they discovered that they both liked travel and adventure. But Toragana’s recent business in Moscow had not gone well. She had gone there to choose some jewellery for her wedding, and she had found the most beautiful diamond tiara. Unfortunately, when she wanted to pay for it, the manager of the shop said that all the US dollars she had brought in her suitcase were forgeries.
“It was quite embarrassing,” she said. “Each and every one of them had the same serial number. I think my father must have been cheated when he sold his country house to a Russian businessman.”
Bertie sympathised, and he felt sorry that he would not be travelling all the way to Mongolia with Toragana, because he had never met anyone quite like her. But he explained that he had to stop off at the city of Yekaterinburg on family business.
“I know,” said Toragana softly. Bertie wondered exactly what it was that she knew.
The train gently climbed through the Ural Mountains, and several days after leaving Moscow they arrived at Yekaterinburg, a city named after Catherine the Great, and infamous as the place where the Tsar and his family met their untimely ends.
On the platform, Princess Toragana offered her hand to Bertie, perhaps meaning him to kiss it farewell, but he gave it a formal shake.
Outside the station, he found a roguish taxi man called Kolya, and hired him to be his driver and helper for the next couple of days. Kolya did not speak English, and Bertie did not speak Russian, but somehow they understood each other perfectly. Kolya found Bertie a room in a comfortable hotel, and later on drove him to the address of Prince Rudolf’s mansion. Bertie feared that the street name would have changed, or that the palace would have been knocked down and replaced by an office block or a factory, but it stood exactly where it always had done, in a tree-lined street behind the Blue Cathedral. It was almost exactly how Rudolf had described in his diary; a gate guarded by stone lion heads, a path through a small garden, a porch supported by pillars, the tops of which were the carved heads of maidens. The only sign of modernity was a big blue sign on the door, and a security camera sitting on top of one of the lion’s heads.
“What is it?” Said Bertie to Kolya with a questioning shrug. Kolya understood and replied: “Bonk,” which Bertie realised must mean “Bank.”
“I see,” said Bertie. “Now I need to buy a spade.” To explain this, he had to get out of the car and show Kolya some shovelling motions. The driver got out too, opened the boot, and took out a shovel.
“Great. We’ll come back after midnight,” said Bertie, pointing to his watch.
Bertie went back to his hotel for a good solid sleep until the evening. Kolya took him to a cafe where they ate Siberian dumplings called pelmani, and Bertie had to absolutely insist that he couldn’t drink vodka. When it was late enough, they returned to Prince Rudolf’s mansion.
It was a clear spring night, and although this was the middle of town, the scent of lilac trees was in the air. Bertie felt quite carefree, and not at all afraid. Perhaps he should have been.
He wasn’t at all worried about the security camera. He thought that if anyone could monitor it day and night they would have to have a super-human tolerance of boredom. All the same, he threw his coat over the lens in case it might be recording anything. Kolya took the somewhat filthy carpet off the floor of his car, and slung this over the wall to protect Bertie from the broken glass that was embedded along the top. Then Kolya held his hands for Bertie to stand in, and gave him a leg-up over the wall. He threw the spade after him. Bertie thought that it wasn’t the first time that Kolya had been on an operation like this.
He went around the side of the house, and started to dig a hole in the grass in front of the apple tree. It was tough going, and he had to pull out several large stones.
“I’m glad it’s not winter,” he thought. “The ground would be frozen over and as hard as rock.”
After Bertie had been digging for half an hour, and had made quite an impressive hole, he had still not found anything interesting. He stopped to wipe his forehead.
A soft voice said: “Bertie, you won’t find it there, you’re digging in the wrong place.”
“Am I hearing things?” thought Bertie. He looked around and saw Princess Toragana standing in the garden.
“That apple tree is too young,” she said. “It wouldn’t have been here when Prince Rudolf buried his treasure box. This is where it is – under my feet.”
“How do you know?” asked Bertie.
“Trust me. I do,” she said. “My instinct for expensive things is never wrong.”
Bertie began to work his shovel on the spot where the princess told him to dig, and shortly before two in the morning his blade struck something hard. It took another fifty minutes to work the box out of the ground, and Bertie was sweaty, covered in earth and out of breath, as he took out the key which was hanging around his neck.
“Do you know what’s inside?” asked Bertie.
“Of course,” said Toragana. “It’s a very special egg.” And although Bertie was quite mystified by how she might know this, he said: “I do hope you are right.”
And she was. Bertie opened the lid of the box and the diamonds on the egg sparkled in the moonlight.
“It’s quite magical,” said Toragana.
“Yes,” said Bertie. “And I don’t think it’s the only magic around tonight. How come you’re here? And how do you know about this?”
“I can read minds,” said the princess.
“You read my book, more like,” said Bertie. “You must have been thumbing through Uncle Rudolf’s diary while I was down the corridor in the train. You’re a fast reader, though, I’ll give you that.”
“That’s not true,” said Toragana, sounding quite insulted. “I read people’s minds. I can’t help it. I just hear everyone’s thoughts. Believe me, it’s pretty boring listening to your brain harping on about the lovely Princess Beatrice and all her kind deeds. But I caught what you were planning to do, and I thought I had better come along and help you. You have to admit, if I wasn’t here, you’d still be breaking your back digging under the wrong tree.”
“Well thank you,” said Bertie, because he realised it would be graceless not to say that.
The following day, Bertie and Princess Toragana once again boarded a train heading across Siberia, for Mongolia and China.
Bertie sat on the bed and hugged his rucksack which contained the precious egg. Toragana said: “Why don’t you sit on your egg like a hen?” And Bertie laughed.
“I was just thinking,” he said, “how almost 100 years ago, my great, great uncle, Prince Rudolf, came this way. It was in the chaos of Revolution, and there were so many robbers and bandits around, that he thought it was too dangerous to take the egg with him any further. That’s why he stopped off in Yekaterinburg, and buried it in the garden of his house there. He thought that the Revolution wouldn’t last, and that one day he would be back one day to fetch it.”
“Oh come on, let’s look at it,” pleaded Toragana, and Bertie first made sure that the door was bolted, and then opened up the rucksack. Soon he was holding the precious object in his hands. He brushed his finger over the smooth enamel dome of the egg, and felt the sharp corners of the golden skateboard that was mounted on top of it.
“Why don’t you open it and see what’s inside?” asked Toragana.
“What do you mean?” said Bertie.
“Give it to me, silly, I’ll show you.”
Bertie let the princess carefully take the egg, and watched as she deftly opened it into two parts on a concealed hinge. Inside was a nest of old Russian newspaper. Toragana carefully unfolded it, trying not to get news ink on her elegant fingers. At the centre of it all, she found a small stone.
“What do you think it is?” asked Bertie.
The princess rolled her hazel eyes up to the ceiling: “Pa!” she exclaimed. “Don’t you know a diamond when you see one?”
“It doesn’t look very big,” said Bertie.
“It would be a small pebble, but it’s a huge diamond. About 15 carats. It must be worth a fortune.”
“Well, that ‘s a bonus,” said Bertie. “I’ll get it polished up and set in a ring for Beatrice when I get back.”
“Lucky girl,” commented Toragana.
The train rattled on across the great expanse of Siberia, and yellow-green fields that stretched as far as the horizon. Only occasionally did they see a wooden village on a hill, looking like a set of dolls’ houses, or a solitary human being dwarfed to insignificance by nature’s vast emptiness.
Bertie could not help looking upon his beautiful and exotic travelling companion rather differently now. “I wonder if she’s a spy, whose been sent to follow me,” he thought.
Toragana said: “No Bertie. I”m not a spy.” And that somewhat spooked Bertie out, because he hadn’t said anything aloud.
“I’d better be careful what I think about,” thought Bertie.
“Yes, you should,” said Toragana.
When Bertie had to leave the coupe to go down the corridor to the loo, he said to Taragana: “I suppose I don’t have to mention this, because you probably know what I’m thinking, but please don’t go anywhere while I’m away because I’d like you to watch my luggage, if that’s okay.”
And Princess Toragana said: “Well I am hardly going to go for a bicycle ride.”
After the city of Irkusk, the Russian taiga set in – dark impenetrable forest on either side of the track. When Bertie was out in the corridor, he caught his first glimpse of Lake Baikal shimmering through the trees, a fresh water lake the size of Belgium, and yet little more than a blue dot on the map of Siberia.
As the lake was on the other side of the train from their compartment, Bertie and the princess had to stand in the corridor to watch the scenery. He firmly closed the door behind them, so that he would hear if anybody tried to sneak through it.
The narrow corridor was full of passengers who had come out to see the views. Two Chinese ladies sang sweetly to pass the time. Toragana said that they were taking poodles to Beijing, where dogs were illegal, but very prized and expensive. Indeed, the princess seemed to know what everyone was up to. Three Ukrainian businessmen, who held glasses of vodka, were on their way to China to buy fake designer goods to sell in Moscow. Some Mongolian youths were returning home from university, but they hadn’t really been studying, only having a good time and trading in sable furs.
The train began to snake around the very edge of the water. Fishermen sat on the stony shore. They were so close that Bertie longed to get out and throw a few pebbles into the lake. Mists rose and twisted above the mountains on the far side. A factory puffed less welcome smoke from a peninsular.
They entered a tunnel of trees and Bertie thought: “Is that it?” And turned back to lie down. “Look now,” said Toragana, and Bertie did. Lake Baikal reached out as far as the late afternoon sun. The water was pure and white and smooth as a vast paving stone. Over the next few hours, the sun eased lower, and yellows and oranges swirled across the lake like some primeval chemistry experiment. Bertie could imagine dinosaurs sticking their heads out of the waters, or flying space ships landing on its surface.
The last stretch of Russia was covered in desolate moors. Toragana asked Bertie how he planned to smuggle the egg through customs, because the Russian authorities might not take too kindly to him taking an expensive antique out of the country.
“I don’t have to smuggle anything,” said Bertie. “I have a diplomatic passport. They can’t search my bags.”
Toragana gave Bertie the look which he understood by now to mean that he was a total innocent who didn’t know anything about anything.
“You will find that everyone on this train has a green diplomatic passport,” she said. “They sell them in Moscow at the Ministry of Foreign affairs. The Russian border guards will take no notice of them, and treat you like anybody else. I’m afraid they will confiscate your egg and throw you in gaol.”
“Oh, dear,” said Bertie. “What do you think I should do?”
“Give it to me,” she said. “I will hide it under my coat. If anybody asks, I shall say that I am going to have a baby.”
“Well I might do the same and say that I eat too much chocolate,” said Bertie. In any case, he opened up the bed and took out his rucksack, but the strange thing was, it didn’t feel heavy enough. He began to feel a sudden panic. And yes, when he opened up the rucksack his worst fear was realised.
“The egg’s gone. How can that be?” he asked, gazing accusingly at the princess.
“Well don’t look at me like that,” said Toragana. “I didn’t take it. Perhaps somebody sneaked in while we were asleep, or while you were gawping at the lake.
“You were looking at the lake with me,” said Bertie, before adding: “Most of the time.”
“Yes, but it’s not my egg,” said the princess. “And the diamond is for your lovely Beatrice. It was your business to look after it, not mine. But if you like, I’ll help you find it. I can read minds, remember. It won’t take me long to listen into the wicked thoughts of everyone in this carriage, and I’ll find out where it is for you.”
“Well, it would be great if you could find it,” said Bertie. The Mongolian princess went out into the corridor and passed slowly along, scanning her hand over each door, and clearly concentrating hard. She passed the Ukrainian businessmen, the Mongolian students, and the Chinese dog-lovers.
“Have you found it yet?” asked Bertie, when she was nearly at the end.
“Let me concentrate,” she replied testily.
“Well?” said Bertie when she had reached the final door.
“The train guard has got it,” she said. “She knows how to smuggle it out of the country. She has an arrangement with border police. Let her take it, and we’ll get it back on the other side.”
Bertie agreed that it was the best plan. He wondered if he could trust Toragana, but he tried not to wonder too much in case she was reading his thoughts.
When they finally reached the border with Mongolia, all the passengers had to get off the train while the customs searched for hours; inside, underneath and on top of the train. It was only the next morning that they finally rolled into Mongolia. Around midmorning, the princess slipped out of the compartment. She returned a few minutes later with something under her coat. It was the Fabergé Egg which she said she had retrieved from a hiding place in the Guard’s Room.
Bertie had no idea whether or not he should believe this mysterious Mongolian, but he was relieved that Uncle Rudolf’s egg was safe. He checked inside and found the diamond too.
“I thought perhaps it was jinxed,” he said to Toragana. “That maybe it just wasn’t its destiny to leave Russia. Thank you again for your help.”
Bertie planned to travel on to Beijing, just as his great great uncle Rudolf had done. From there, he planned to fly home.
“Have you ever seen a country as beautiful as this?” asked Toragana. “You must come and see where I live with my parents.”
Bertie looked out of the window and saw that the countryside was vast and green, tangled, and wild. The blue sky was simply enormous. He had to admit that it did look extraordinarily beautiful.
“Won’t your fiancé mind if you bring home a strange prince?” he asked.
“Oh, no, he’s far far away,” said Toragana. “In fact, he’s in quite another world.”
And so Bertie agreed to break his journey in Mongolia. It would make his adventure that much more interesting.
When they reached Ulan Bator, which is the capital of Mongolia, they stepped down onto the platform on legs that were quite wobbly after so much sitting down. Toragana was met at the station by a driver who worked for her family. His four-wheel drive was large and glistening sliver, of a make that Bertie had not seen before. He thought that perhaps it might be Chinese. Bertie sat in the back of the car, and soon they were out of the city.
They drove, and they drove, and they drove. They drove over the rolling steppe, and into the Gobi Desert. They drove through the day, and they drove through the night, and they drove through the next day, and although the road was rough – in fact you could barely call it a road – the car was so comfortable that you could hardly feel any bumps. The scenery was expansive. Occasionally they saw dusty Mongolian horsemen, and families living in pointed tents called yurts. They stopped every now and then to stock up on water and fermented mare’s milk, which Bertie thought quite disgusting. The driver played loud Mongolian pop music on the car’s stereo. In short, it was tedious.
Finally Toragana said: “You can wake up now, Bertie, because we have arrived.”
He opened his eyes, not knowing quite what to expect; a tent or a palace. But it was neither. It was the middle of the Gobi Desert. It was hundreds of miles from anywhere. There was not even a horse or a sheep in sight. All there was to see was the vast blue sky and a steel structure that was quite spherical, like a flying saucer.
“If you don’t mind me saying so,” said Bertie, “it’s quite an unusual building in quite an unusual spot.”
“Why don’t you get out and take a closer look,” said Toragana. Bertie did. He walked all around the building – it somehow seemed much bigger that way than when he first saw it from the car. There were no windows, and he couldn’t find a door.
“How do you get in?” he asked.
“Like this,” said Toragana. She waved her arm, and a doorway opened up in the side and a flight of steps slid down to the ground.
“After you,” said the princess. Bertie mounted the steps. Inside he found a perfectly cool round living room, with large cushions to sit on. All around were screens showing various scenes, such as the desert immediately outside, cities like New York and Paris, the world taken from space, and yet more screens showing the stars.
“It’s almost like a flying saucer,” said Bertie.
Toragana looked at him with her head on one side. “Are all human princes so slow to catch on? This is a flying saucer, you dummy.”
“Oh,” said Bertie. “Are you going to kidnap me and take me to another world?”
“No,” she said. “My fiancé really wouldn’t like that. I’ve brought you here to ask you a very special favour. You see, I was on holiday with my parents, and we were travelling across your solar system when we ran into engine trouble. We had to crash land on Earth, and the Gobi Desert was the most out-of-the-way spot we could find to park.”
“Well I don’t suppose you’ll pick up a parking ticket here,” said Bertie.
“We need to replace the diamond in the main forward thrust. That’s why I went to Moscow to buy one. Only the money we printed off did not pass inspection for the real stuff. Human technology was not quite so dumb as we thought.”
“We came across counting a while ago,” said Bertie.
The alien came over to Bertie and held both his hands. She looked into his eyes to make her appeal. “And now I really need to get back to my planet or I will miss my own wedding and that will be just too embarrassing. I’m not really a princess, but I am about to marry a prince and become one. If I miss an opportunity like that, I’ll never forgive myself.”
“So what you are saying,” said Bertie, “is that you want my diamond.”
“Oh I knew that you would understand. You love your dear Beatrice so much. Just think how you would feel if she disappeared off the face of the earth just before your wedding. That’s how my dear prince will feel if I can’t make it back in time, or indeed, ever…”
Although Bertie had been meaning to give the diamond as a special present to Beatrice, he also knew in his heart that she would want Toragana to get back to her planet in time for her wedding.
“Alright then,” said Bertie. “You can have the diamond on one condition. You give me a ride in your flying saucer and drop me off somewhere near my palace. I’ve never flown in a saucer before, and besides, I’m fed up with all this overland travel.”
Perhaps Bertie would have said that the trip of his life was on the trans-Siberian train, only there was one ride that topped that altogether – Toragana whizzed him to Mars and back, and took him four times around the moon, before gently touching down in the garden behind the palace.
Before going to bed, Bertie took the Easter egg out of his rucksack and placed it at the centre of the dining room table, so that the wicked queen would see it when she came down to breakfast, and she would know that Bertie and his great, great uncle Rudolf weren’t such nincompoops after all. It was a shame that he did not have a diamond to place beside Beatrice’s plate but he did at least have an amazing story to tell her.
And that’s the story of Bertie in Siberia. Wow, it was a long one, and well done for listening to the end. Did you guess that Toragana was an alien, Richard?